Monday, 10 March 2014

Plastic Warrior Magazine hits 30 and I have a late life crisis.

At the weekend the latest issue of Plastic Warrior Magazine hit my doormat, I opened the cover and browsed the contents which are headed by a statement "The original plastic figure magazine first published in 1985" and then it hit me this means PW has now been in continuous uninterrupted publication for 30 years.  That has to be some kind of a milestone, there aught to be a party at the very least.  I remember the excitement of receiving the very first issue and the magazine has been a constant element for more than half of my lifetime.  But where have all those years gone?  I don't feel any different now from then but I see myself in a recent photo and I could be looking at a picture of my Dad and it all happened in the blink of an eye!
It's okay just a momentary wobble, here's the latest issue:

Inside you'll find: News, Views and Other Stuff, an in-depth research of Britains Eyes Right U.S. Sets, a look at the collection of one of the readers, an interview with new manufacturer Austin Miniatures, Readers Letters, Book Review - Spot On models, Elastolin 40mm siege engines and artillery etc. New Products - from Pvblis, A Call to Arms, Armies in Plastic, Pegasus and Expeditionary Force.  Converters Corner: the Brooklyn Red Legs from the ACW.  A review of plastic models of Napoleon.  Minor Makers - VP Boxed Set. Wot The !&*$? identification of readers unknown figures.  Media Models - featuring the work of Joe Black. and last but not least Readers Small Ads.

Posts have been sparse this past nine months as I have been back at work, a simple, undemanding 9 to 5 job which I assured myself would not affect my work/life balance.
Alas this is not working out as planned........... ho-hum.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Malleable Mouldings figures designed by Holger Eriksson

Holger Eriksson's Swedish Dragoon trumpeters herald in the New Year!

The five horsemen with the standing poses shown front and profile.  There is another rider in the set, an officer, which is the same figure as the Dragoon shown here but with the right arm cut away and replaced with one carrying a sword.

Among the earliest 54mm plastic figures made in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter) are these Swedish Dragoons made by Malleable Mouldings circa 1946.  The majority of this firms figures were based on designs made by Eriksson and others for Authenticast in Eire but so far as I can ascertain these Dragoons were only ever part of Eriksson's own "Tennfigurer" range of connoisseur models.  The crisp sculpting of the original metal models has not  transferred well to these plastic versions which are crude with excessive flash around the split lines. This suggests they may have been made by compressing material into the mould in the manner of earlier composition figures rather than injecting thermoplastic into them as practised in the 1950's.

A closer look at the rearing horses showing the three different positions of the forelegs (there is a fourth combination: right leg tucked in, left leg out).  The horse on the right clearly shows the split line where the two halves have been glued together and the less common oval base.

The horses are hollow, being formed in two halves and then glued together, the rearing ones are all the same basic pose with the moulds being modified to alter the position of the forelegs, allowing them to offer four different versions.  The bases on these horses are all original, the square/oblong ones are just cut from plastic sheet while the oval one (which is much less stable) has been formed from the same plastic as the horse and glued on.  The horses all have a small pinhole in the saddle which I always assumed was to take a peg from the rider for stability but these are the very first examples I've found which still have the pegs on the riders intact.

Are they rare?  Well that's a very subjective term, too often misused to infer value, certainly they are hard to find but on the other hand they turn up often enough.  These chaps are in this post simply because I found them all together in a junk box at a local collectors fair recently.  For more information on Malleable Mouldings and the other plastic figure ranges made from designs by Holger Eriksson (SAE and Spencer-Smith) see the Plastic Warrior Malleable Mouldings Special Issue

If anyone should read this, I hope you had a peaceful Happy Christmas and I offer you my very best wishes for the New Year, whoever you are.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sesquicentennial Gettysburg Game

This month, July 2013, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and earlier this week a band of enthusiasts came together to mark the occasion with a wargame using 54mm toy soldiers.  The real battle was fought over three days but we opened our action on day two of the struggle:

Overview of the field from Rock Run Creek looking west

The union forces are concentrated in a salient between the two roads that stretch from cemetery ridge where General Meade has made his headquarters all the way back to Little Round Top, the ground rises steadily from the town of Gettysburg up to the surrounding hills. Flags are placed to mark initial troop deployments (some are dummies) and are replaced by actual units when the umpire decides that they are in line of sight at ground level.

Meade's headquarters defended by a Regiment. of elite Zouaves and an artillery battery.

The rebel attack opens from the east of Gettysburg.

As in all good toy soldier games the cannon are matchstick firing but the guns have been issued with limited amounts of ammunition and conserving ammo starts to become critical as the game progresses, particularly for the Confederates who have limited resupply.

Union infantry occupy the woods to the east of Cemetery Ridge.

Battle opens on the Union right as the confederates advance over open ground towards the woods opposite Meade’s HQ. and push up the road towards cemetery ridge. The woods are occupied by Union infantry and a hot artillery duel ensues which sees heavy casualties on both sides but rebel pressure tells and the Feds are pushed back up the ridge.

Overview of the initial action.

The artillery duel begins.

Confederate Command, with an English observer, Captain William Widdirington: late of the Steam Steel and torpedoes blog

The Confederate Command watch as their attack goes in.

The Confederate advance from Gettysburg along the roads up to the ridge

More Confederate Regiments appears on the Union left, working their way south towards Little Round Top, to close the line with another two Regiments believed to be hidden in the woods.  Up on the hills above, three Union Regiments with two Batteries await them.

The fighting becomes much hotter on the right and a Regiment is rushed from the centre to stiffen the Federal flank.

The Union left flank is rocked by the rising crescendo of the Rebel Yell!

Up on Little Round Top the Yankee commander starts to get anxious that the expected rebel attack against him might just be a faint and he makes a probing advance to force the issue. Too late he discovers that he has been duped, the main attack is well advanced on the right while he has been sitting on the left with half the army and it’s guns.

Union troops on the left advance across The Wheatfield and form line around the Peach Orchard.  (the plant markers were used to indicate geographical features)

The Union left makes up for lost time, engaging the Rebel right to the relief of the hard pressed Zouaves holding the centre.

Effective Confederate artillery fire takes out the first Union battery.

Good shooting from the Rebel guns took a fearful toll on the massed ranks of Union troops squeezed into the salient.

Pressure builds up on the right as more Confederate regiments are fed straight into the attack as they arrive in the line.

And yet more Rebels!  the whole of the South must be here today.

The struggle to hold the woods continues

The Iron Brigade and Berdans Sharpshooters join the line as the last reserves are thrown in to face the final assault of the day

As dusk closes in the last couple of moves are played out, on the left the effect of massed rifle fire sweeps away the the Confederate right wing but in reply the Rebel counter battery fire finds the Union caissons and blows away the entire battery. 

It was planned to play the game over two days and as the first came to a close honours were fairly even. The Confederate right had been destroyed and their artillery were now running perilously short of ammunition but their main strength remained intact on the left and in the centre. Union forces still held the ridge but had taken a fearful pounding and had lost nearly all their guns, both sides settled down to spend the night on the battlefield, in the morning they would redress their lines and continue the struggle.

Sadly I was unable to stay for the second days play so this is all I have to offer you but hopefully the story will be taken up and continued on the Megablitz and more blog of Mr Tim Gow who commanded the armies of the South on the day.
The game didn’t follow the path of the original battle and it was never intended that it should do so (especially with the well known Rebel sympathies of some players on the Union side!). All the players contributed several regiments each, the sight of so many toy soldiers set out on an extensive terrain was quite inspiring and made the effort of painting them up all the more worthwhile.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Summer Samurai

I recently read on a blog somewhere that "England is a country which gets nine months of Winter followed by three months of bad weather".  It's not true.  But given the washed out Summers we've had over the last two years it might as well be.  So when the sun unexpectedly shone last weekend I was unprepared for it but headed for the garden with my trusty camera and here are the results:

The figures are Samurai made by Furuta of Japan and they are  perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the world of 54mm plastic toy soldiers.  I've had these for a few years now and they rarely come out of the box, which is unforgivable, but they need basing and I'm not confident that my modelling skills are quite up to the job yet.

Made in hard plastic and factory painted they come in parts which clip together very snugly.  They are actually pieces for some sort of role playing game and you buy them individually in little packets a bit like Pokemon and such stuff.  Each figure comes with a sheet which I think describes his character but as it's all in Japanese I can tell you nothing more.  The figure bases are black plastic trays, also somehow integral to the game, which are quite unsightly and therefore need to be replaced (work soon to be in progress)

The sculpting is sublime, the foot figures are suspended in those balletic poses that only Samurai can achieve before they launch themselves cat like with blades swiping sending limbs flying and blood spurting in every direction.  The horses are so animated you can almost hear their nostrils snorting with the exertion and smell the sweat on their flanks.

I've long had it in mind to use them in an 1870's Satsuma Rebellion style wargame pitched against the "Funny Little Wars" Japanese army I've been working on but I think I would find it too upsetting if they lost! 

The backdrop is a stream I built in my back garden (two years ago just before the weather turned bad) with the intention of using it for garden wargaming.  It runs between two ponds the length of a shady border, where previously only weeds would grow, and in the absence of any military activity has become the habitat of varied wildlife, edged with rockery it is my own personal Hindu Kush.  It was inspired by the garden of Mr John Ruddle which has become internationally famous for it's landscaping which represents all the continents of the world laid out for 54mm wargamig.  I have visited John's garden several times but sadly without my camera so cannot share more with you.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Der Kampf Gegen Russland

I have finally managed to track down the boardgame mentioned in the last post, at the Nuremberg toy museum and here it is:
Bottom right hand quarter of the board showing Russian Cossacks and infantry.  Picture courtesy of the Nuremberg Toy Museum

Here's what they have to say about it:

"Kampf gegen Rußland - Ein neues Kriegspiel" aus dem Verlag Joseph Scholz, Mainz mit Zeichnungen von Th. Cronberger. Der Spielplan gibt einen Blick auf das von einem Fluß durchzogene Schlachtfeld wieder - links des Flusses stehen die deutschen Truppen, rechts die russischen. Ziel des Spieles ist, die gegnerische Festung in Besitz zu nehmen. 2 "Festungen" aus Blech, Spielmarken aus bedruckter Pappe, Holzstäbchen zum Bewegen der Spielmarken.  Scholz' künstlerische Spiele "Spiel mit" & Monogramm J Sch M
"Fight against Russia - A new war game" from the publisher Joseph Scholz, Mainz with drawings by Th Cronberger. The gameboard is a view of a river by the early battlefield - left of the river are the German troops, the Russians are on the right. The aim of the game is to take possession of the enemy fortress. Accessories are 2 "fortresses" of sheet metal, tokens of printed cardboard soldiers and wooden sticks to move the tokens.

The picture shows the box art and the lower right hand quarter of the game board. sadly the least interesting section but it gives a flavour of the artwork.